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U.S. Government Tests Transportation and Cyber Security


Two recent tests in Washington, DC show the government's efforts to make the United States safe from terrorists. In one, the Washington area public transport system conducted an emergency preparedness exercise with police and firefighters along with the Federal Bureau of Investigation. In the other, the Department of Homeland Security conducted its first full-scale cyber exercise -- aimed at protecting the nation's information technology systems.

This may look like some kind of train accident or explosion, but it is part of a drill conducted by Metro -- the Washington, D.C. mass transit system -- along with police, firefighters and the F.B.I. The exercise was designed to simulate an explosion and the collision of a commuter train and a subway train -- with fire, smoke and injuries. The firemen and police were operating under difficult conditions.

That was done intentionally -- for training purposes, according to Chuck Novick of Metro's Safety Department describes some of the challenges.

"The toughest thing for these firefighters and police out here is that they have to work together and we don't want two, three different bosses up there. We want one person, part of the Unified Command System, that knows what the resources are underneath them and how to utilize those."

In the exercise, actors portrayed injured victims -- who were evaluated and treated by participants. They were ranked as to the severity of their injuries and then placed on different colored mats, which corresponded to their conditions -- to await ambulances to take them to area hospitals for further treatment.

In another part of the scenario, bomb-sniffing dogs check the cars of the train for explosives and find a suspicious briefcase, which must be detonated.

Metro Transit Police Bomb Technician Eric Croom is sent in to x-ray the case. Afterwards, he showed reporters what was found. "The single strands you see are possibly dynamite."

The bag was ultimately detonated. The exercise tested the response and readiness of Washington area fire departments and emergency responders and is part of an ongoing effort to strengthen the region's emergency preparedness.

Meanwhile, the federal government recently completed a weeklong test of the country's cyber security.

Called "Cyber Storm," the exercise was a coordinated effort among more than 100 public, private and international agencies, corporations and governments.

George Foresman is the Undersecretary for Preparedness in the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. He explained why protecting the nation's information technology systems are important. "Cyber security is an essential part of our preparedness efforts because information technology systems can connect so many aspects of economy and our society - including transportation, finance, telecommunications, health care and most importantly our national security."

The U.S. federal government spent $3 million to plan and conduct Cyber Storm. Officials say they will make a full review of the exercise over the next several months and will release their report on it this summer.

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